(Bad) Teacher of the Year

Bad Teacher, starring Cameron Diaz, is doing well at the box office. The black comedy is the “most scabrous portrayal of public education ever put to celluloid,” writes Sean Higgins in The American Spectator.

(Diaz’s character) doesn’t bother to teach the kids at all, regularly shows up to class hungover, solicits bribes from parents in exchange for good grades, embezzles money from school fundraisers and tells the one go-getter in her class to give up her dreams of becoming president in exchange for something more realistic, “like a masseuse.”

When I first started teaching, I thought that I was doing it for all the right reasons: Shorter hours, summers off, no accountability …” she explains.

Instead of teaching, she shows movies about inspirational teachers in class. Her job is safe — even when another teacher tells the principal she’s doing drugs on campus. He doesn’t want to tackle the union.

When she learns of a bonus for the teacher whose students earn the highest test scores, she tries to teach, but is lousy at it. So she tries to cheat on the test.

When her rival tries to expose her fraud, Halsey has her — a teacher who actually does inspire students — framed for drug possession and bounced out of the school. And that’s the happy ending.

I doubt viewers will see Bad Teacher as a documentary. It’s a take-off on Bad Santa‘s boozing, foul-mouthed safecracker, which nobody thought was telling the real truth about Santa Claus. Bad Santa is funny because we like to think of even department store Santas as jolly and kindly. Bad Teacher plays off the stereotype of the dedicated teacher. If that image didn’t exist, there’d be nothing funny about a kid-hating teacher.

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